A malfunctioning relay at Homer Electric Association's Marathon Road substation plunged the core of downtown Kenai into darkness shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday.
"The actual reason for the malfunction is under investigation," said HEA spokesperson Sandra Ghormley. "We've got a team of servicemen who are experts in this area actively investigating the problem."
The electricity went out at 10:53 a.m. but was restored at 11:10 a.m., when power was rerouted around the faulty relays, which act much like circuit breakers in the home. Ghormley said she did not know if the entire Marathon Road Substation was bypassed or just the affected relays. The usual causes of power outages, snow and high wind, were absent at the time of the outage.
The power failure did not disrupt operations at the Kenai Municipal Airport or the Federal Aviation Administration's Flight Service Station and control tower. Airport Manager Becky Cronkhite said there are two backup generators at the airport -- one to serve the terminal building and runway lighting and instrumentation, and the other for the tower and Flight Service.
"It shut down everybody's computer before the backup generator kicked in," Cronkhite said. "But as far as the FAA and lighting goes, everything stayed on."
The power outage affected about 1,500 homes and businesses between the intersection of Redoubt Avenue and the Kenai Spur Highway to Marathon Road, including the heart of the city's retail district.
As always, HEA recommends people take precautions to protect sensitive electronic equipment, such as computers, using power surge protectors and backup power supply batteries.
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